Monday, 8 August 2016

Brave Battle Saga: Legend of the Magic Warrior (Mega Drive)

Brave Battle Saga: Legend of the Magic Warrior (also known as Barver Battle Saga: Tai Kong Zhan Shi and Final Fantasy) is an unlicensed RPG, released originally in Chinese, translated into Russian (and re-titled Final Fantasy) by pirates and later fan-translated into English. Though accounts of the Russian translation say it's terrible to the point of possibly being machine translated, their renaming of it is actually pretty apt: there's a lot in this game that would make the casual observer think they were looking at an actual lost game in Squaresoft's series.

Before you even get to the title screen, the intro tells us that there was an ancient schism between opposing factions in favour of technology and magic, and that the world is kept in balance by four temples, each in different kingdoms, and each representing one of the four classical elements. So pretty much the scenario seen in the first five Final Fantasies. Then, when you actually start playing the game, you'll see that the battle system is (as far as I can tell) identical to Square's Active Time Battle system, and when you start getting magic, the spells can be equipped to whichever character you like, and you can buy multiples of each spell to give to each character on your party if you like, kind of like a simpler version of Final Fantasy VII's materia system (though to Brave Battle Saga's credit, it does predate that game by a year). On the plus side, it's definitely one of the better-looking RPGs on the Mega Drive, probably down to trying to copy the kind of highly-detailed spritework seen in Square's SNES RPGs.

Upon the unoriginal foundation laid by the intro, the game's  plot doesn't really get any more interesting: there's runaway princesses, demons kidnapping people and trying to wreck the elemental temples, and all the other incredibly cliched RPG stuff. Chinese RPGs on PC have a reputation for being great, romantic epic adventures, but unfortunately, in this case, the developers seem to have been content to ape typical Japanese RPG tropes.

Unfortunately, thogh it's a clear copy of Square's games on a superficial level, it doen't have anywhere near the same kind of quality in scenario writing and game design, being as it is one of the most linear RPGs I've ever played. You're totally unable to to do anything or go anywhere except straight forward to the next plot destination, which makes it even more frustrating that sometimes you're arbitrarily blocked from advancing until you've spoken to the right people in the right order. You might notice from the screenshots that I didn't play particularly far into this game, not even far enough to obtain my fourth party member, but I did play for over four hours, which I think is enough to get a good enough grasp on whether or not the game is worth playing. And even if it's not, a game that expects you to play for hours and hours before suddenly getting interesting is a game that's just not worth your time at all.

In summary, Brave Battle Saga is an unusually high-quality production for an unlicensed game, but at the same time, it's not very interesting to play, it's way too linear for an RPG of this style, and there isn't a single original thing about it, aesthetically, narratively or mechanically.

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